Hydrogen Fuel - Hydrogen Fuel By Jared Hartzman Professor...

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Hydrogen Fuel By Jared Hartzman Professor: Judith Reppy 12/18/08
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Introduction The idea of hydrogen as a fuel source has been around for decades; however it has not been until recently that it has been picking up momentum and attracting attention from the government and public alike. While many activists and environmental groups question the social, environmental, and political implications of what they call “black” hydrogen, hydrogen that is produced from coal and nuclear power, others see it as the least polluting fuel available. There are several benefits to hydrogen fuel cell technology. First, hydrogen fuel cell automobiles appear to be a superior consumer product desired by the automotive industry. Second, as indicated by the National Academies’ study, “the potential exists for dramatic reductions in the cost of hydrogen production, distribution, and use. And third, hydrogen provides the potential for zero tailpipe pollution, near-zero well-to-wheels emissions of greenhouse gases, and the elimination of oil imports, simultaneously addressing the most vexing challenges facing the fuels sector, well beyond what could be achieved with hybrid vehicles and energy efficiency” (Sperling 2008, 83). While the idea of hydrogen fuel cells as a technological fix for our dependence on fossil fuels is on the rise, ways to produce the hydrogen necessary for such a transition are currently being discussed and tested. So, what are some of the means by which we will be able to produce hydrogen fuel and how feasible is the distribution of hydrogen once the previously stated production practices have taken place? Hydrogen Production
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The first major method is electrolysis of water. Electrolysis of water is the decomposition of water (H 2 O) into oxygen (O 2 ) and hydrogen gas (H 2 ) due to an electric current being passed through the water. In this electrolysis, a power source is connected to two electrodes, which are then placed in the water. The negatively charged electrode, the cathode, attracts the positively charged hydrogen atoms while the positively charged electrode, the anode, attracts the negatively charged oxygen atoms. Hydrogen fuel would be the least polluting fuel available if solar-electrolysis, or electrolysis which uses solar power, was used to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen in water molecules. Currently only about four percent of the total hydrogen produced comes from electrolysis of water
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